“We don’t hope for accidents” was the phrase i said perhaps a thousand times at various anti-nuclear events before the Fukushima triple meltdown. Often critics of nuclear power would theorize that a major accident would be a game changer and cripple or kill the nuclear power industry. But those of us who had studied the problems of nuclear power, especially the tremendous suffering that Chernobyl had wrought, knew better than to wish these problems on anyone. It has been exactly three years since the the earthquake and tsunami that catalyzed the disaster on the east coast of Japan. And while this accident has been a tremendous setback for the nuclear industry, i hold to the sentiment i had expressed so many times before it.
I wanted to do a quick post on a handful of commonly misunderstood aspects of this accident to mark its dark anniversary. The first point is that the biggest and most comprehensive study of the Fukushima meltdowns places responsibility not on mother nature, but on the Japanese government and the utility which ran the reactor.
“What must be admitted, very painfully, is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan’,” Concluded the chair of the special independent commission of the Japanese parliament. “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to sticking with the program; our groupism; and our insularity.”
You will hear nuclear apologists talk about how such a tidal wave could never have been foreseen or the size of the earthquake was unprecedented. But this panel, initiated by the parliament itself, which had broad subpoena power and interviewed over 1,100 experts, politicians and utility staff concluded differently.
While the people of Japan want an end to nuclear power, the government and the business elite of the country want nuclear power to continue and are doing all they can to make this possible. In a little reported story, Japanese prosecutors have decided to drop all charges against the government and the nuclear utility TEPCO for the problems caused by Fukushima. This means despite hundreds of billions in damages, tens of thousands losing their homes and unable to return to their land and worsening radioactive pollution in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific, no one will be held responsible for this disaster.
“But no one died.” Conveniently short sighted US Americans love to remind us of Fukushima. Except that this is not true. The provincial government and the local police are now estimating that the fatalities associated with the meltdowns exceed the number of people killed by the earthquake and tsunami in the prefecture of Fukushima. These are not green groups with an agenda of stopping nuclear power, these are the local bureaucrats and law enforcement folks watching the premature deaths of people in their neighborhoods and counting them.
Similarly depressing is the report that 136K people from the Fukushima prefecture are still displaced. Many will never be able to return.
So don’t wish nuclear accidents on anyone. But if they do happen, go out and organize and stop nuclear power in your country. Over the last three years, citizen efforts have pushed governments to end nuclear construction and phase out reactors in Mexico, Italy, Belgium, Venezuela and Switzerland.
The big win for safe energy activists world wide is Germany where there will be a complete nuclear phase out by 2022. Where the largest nuclear construction company in the world, Siemens, is phasing out of building reactors. And where on a sunny summer day over half the country’s electricity comes from solar power.
[This post has been proofread by GPaul]
The Point A project, bent on forming income sharing egalitarian communes in the cities of the East Coast, has arrived in NYC. We, the handful of organizers working on it are interested in two things:
- supporting the expansion of intentional communities in the metro region
- starting up a new income sharing egalitarian community in this city
To succeed we will need to find a sizable group of daring people to take the leap into our glorious future. But before that we’ll need to find the team of organizers who will find, cajole, encourage, and arrange that sizable group of daring people. We need our directors of mission control.
As a comic ploy we are calling this group the “Secret Cabal”, for it is neither really – but we believe that some people will want to be part of a secret cabal which is attempting something risky and different, so we chose this name (for now at least). Since we are actively promoting our work and are open to new participants, there is nothing secret about us. No conspiracy, no back rooms, no shadowy plans… but schemes aplenty!
Should you be part of this group? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you think dramatically increasing the options for collective living is desirable and necessary for improving the world condition?
- Do you believe we need to deploy and promote a dense ecosystem of sharing systems to save out butts from certain doom?
- Are you an effective and cooperative organizer?
- Do you live in the NYC metro area?
- Do you have time and energy for a new project?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, you might be a perfect addition to our secret cabal. Which is meeting in Brooklyn on Monday March 10th at 9 PM. Contact me if you are interested.
Other secret cabals could be coming soon to a city near you… especially if you can reach out and tip the hand of fate.
“You almost never want to call the police.” Lark said. He was part of the ragtag breakfast group in one of the buildings in Freedonia that they have managed to get legal control of. Breakfast was a lovely mix of rescued vegetables and Twin Oaks vegetarian sausage.
“But this time it seemed like the right thing” he continued. ”The building beside ours had been broken into. The boards were torn off the door and the door kicked in. It looked bad and if we did not call the police, they were quite likely to think we did it. So we called them.”
The police arrived, looked around, established in an unsurprised way, that the building was indeed abandoned and who ever broke in probably got nothing of value. But he seemed unsure what to do with this uncared for property.
“We should probably lock the door.” Lark said to the officer.
“That sounds like a good idea.” Said the cop.
“Our lock.” Pushed Lark.
“i guess so, sure.” said the peace officer hesitatingly.
There was a pause as the squatter looked at the state representative for a moment.
“Can i get your name and phone number?” Lark asked.
That was two years ago.
We slept in that building last night, it is done up in squat chic these days. Lovely political posters on the wall. Windows repaired. Furniture rescued from the street. A surprisingly complete kitchen has been installed. Turns out if you pay them, the power utility will give anyone electric.
On the back of the door there is the name and phone number of the police officer, with some graffiti tags and a nicely hand painted sign which says simply “thanks”
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Talk on Anarchism
University of Hawaii, April 26, 1990
George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are all stranded on a desert island – who would survive? [Pause] We would, a bit of Anarchist humor.
When people here the word anarchy, the vision which jumps to mind is chaos. When someone says they are an anarchist, you picture a scruffy person, dressed in black, with a maniacal grin on their face, holding a bomb [Mess up hair, grin and pull mock bomb out of bag].
I’m going to try to shatter some of these illusions.
The word anarchy comes from the Greek “without rule“
Anarchists generally believe that governments are fundamentally coercive organizations, drawing there power from violence and that man made laws are a restriction of freedom and therefore both governments and laws should be abolished. Or if you want to look at it in a more affirmative sense, Anarchists seek to:
1) Maximize freedom 2) Minimize coercion
You are probably thinking “Laudable goals, but impossible to obtain without some type of hierarchy to maintain order.”
Let me share with you the experience which first convinced me that there were non-hierarchical solutions to problems.
We were choosing teams for an ultimate Frisbee game, someone said “Find someone of approximately your ability and pair up with them.” after about half a minute we were in pairs “now everyone on the left is on one team and everyone on the right is on the other”. Now normally, captains are selected choices are alternated, w/ ego invested first picks and embarrassing last pick and the whole operation takes much longer. Why do we stick with this hierarchical system, which takes responsibility away from the individual, when it is inferior in so many ways – because it is what we know, what we are taught.
Now you are thinking “Nice trick, but life is not a frisbee game, what about more complex social organizations”
If the structure or “topology”, if you will, of the hierarchy is a pyramid. Then what is the large scale model for anarchist organizations? Why it is the buzz word of the 80′s – networks.
I’ve been involved in three different types of network each sheds a bit of light on how anarchists structure things.
First is collective businesses. Workers make the decisions. Frequently, they will choose to give authority to a manager or project leader. But these are fundamentally different from normal corporate managers, they serve a specific project or until the group replaces them, the workers give them the power to lead and volunteer to follow their instructions. Most collectives use a consensus decision model, borrowed from the feminists, in which problems are worked on until everyone agrees on the solution – this is a very different than a voting model. Typically business collectives don’t grow to be huge, but in my experience they are much nicer places to work.
Secondly are collective houses. I want to focus on a single aspect of a collective house i lived in called Paradox to illustrate a point. Big houses w/ a lot of people (10 in this case) perpetually have problems keeping the place clean. At Paradox we developed a system where post-it notes with cleaning tasks were placed on a big calendar on the date they were last done. When you felt like doing housework, you went to the calendar, found what had not been done in a while, did that task and moved the post-it. Nowhere in this process is your name listed next to your fine work, it is a self policing system. The group having taken responsibility, when things slipped, as they always do occasionally, someone would bring it up in a house meeting and people would generally admit to not having done enuf – this worked better than rigid job wheels in my experience.
The third and last type of network is the political collective. These are important because they deal with the problems of bringing large groups of people together, frequently in short periods to solve specific problems. An affinity group structure is used, usually friends who make decisions using consensus. Often specific tasks are handled by an affinity group, media outreach, writing a handbook, transportation coordination, first aid, food preparation, etc. But the “spokesperson council” will make a decision for the entire group using consensus. Your thinking “It can’t work for a group over a hundred”, I’ve seen it work for several thousand. Not easy but doable.
And you end up with a better quality of decisions.
Now you are thinking “Okay, maybe this stuff works in special cases, but no government, means no police, no military – civilization will collapse!”
My contention is that these institutions do more to foster collapse than prevent it. Consider the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima after the Japanese petitioned for conditional surrender. Consider that 90% of the 2 million killed in Vietnam were civilians. Consider the Reagan-Bush escapades in Libya, Granada, Nicaragua and Panama. Or if you find these uncompelling, consider the Orwellian double think of nuclear weapons “Build more of these world destroying devices and the world will be safer” Sounds like civilization is quite sick to me.
“But we need the police!” you call. I want to do a survey, how many people in this room have been robbed in the last 20 years [about 80% raise hands] and how many of these crimes were solved with the criminal caught and punished [about 5% raise hands]. So what is the solution here, more police? No, the solution is to change the way society looks at property.
The point is that government is a responsibility dodge, we put it there to deal with the things we don’t want to deal with, and once in place it does things we don’t want it to do. Now you are thinking “This guy is dreaming of places which can’t exist”.
I want tell you about a place called Twin Oaks, it is an intentional community of 70 adults and about a dozen kids in rural Virginia – they don’t bill themselves as anarchists, but rather they use words like egalitarian, feminist and “embracing diversity” it amounts to the same thing. It is directly democratic (rather than a representative one), workers control everything (similar to the collective business i mentioned before), they don’t use money internally (tho they generate over a million dollars in exports a year), they contract with each other to work the same number of hours a week (writing software is worth the same as doing the dishes or childcare), they have some personal property but almost anything large is owned collectively. From the large list of possible jobs they are free to choose the which ones they like and when they will do them. And guess what, no crime. Probably $10 million in physical plant, equipment, and tools and no locks inthe whole place. Fourteen cars and trucks with the keys in them and only one has been stolen in the last 20 years – doing a lot better than this audience. “Well, they must be very restrictive about who they let in.” you are thinking. Nope, a significant majority of people who apply are accepted.
Now maybe you are thinking “I’m not quite sure what to make of all this stuff, but i don’t think these anarchist ideas will ever affect my life.”
I contend that everyone in this room has been effected by a relatively recent anarchist revolution, the sexual revolution. Not long ago, the church, state and nuclear family had incredible power over our sexual relationships. “Living in sin” was not a joke, adultery was a serious punishable crime. People said “this is fundamentally my choice” and whole scale rejected the external authority. The laws stayed on the books, people just ignored them and they became unenforced and unenforceable. They decided to form a network of lovers, if you will, mostly quite small, but the hierarchy lost it’s control over this issue.
So next time someone tells you they are an anarchist, don’t think about bombs, think about freedom [throw mock bomb to Rez in the audience]
I hope i have shattered some illusions.
[Total time 5 minutes 30 seconds]
From Point A to…
An audacious proposal to form Urban Income Sharing Egalitarian Democratic Ambitious Engaged Communes in the cities of the American East Coast.
The Short Version
We know that a more humane, satisfying, sustainable world is possible. There are any number of theories and plans for transforming society, many of which would likely be better than what we’re doing now. With 7 billion humans and counting and thousands of years of inherited culture and trillions of acres of intensely varied world any plan we dream up will inevitably encounter vast realms of complexity in its implementation no matter how elegant it is in theory. The wait for a cataclysmic revolution might exceed our window of opportunity for saving ourselves and, given the complexity of the project, is ripe for failure (a lesson history teaches us well).
So why wait? If the revolution isn’t coming fast enough then let’s make it where we can (TAZ)! If the solutions we propose are complicated let’s start testing them and working out the kinks (propositional politics). If the status quo is corrosive then let us form membranes around our communities to protect us from it so that we can have the strength and robustness necessary to challenge it (counter-institutions).
The Point A project proposes a network of urban income-sharing egalitarian democratic ambitious and engaged communes as a starting point on the road to a more humane, satisfying, and sustainable world for all. Our goal is social transformation and our actions and forms are aimed at maximizing our effectiveness at achieving that goal as quickly, robustly, and widely as possible.
Unpacking the Adjectives
Urban: Our project is social transformation and that means changing people and how they relate to each other. Currently and increasingly the people and their relations are mostly in the city. Also, the rural commune is a model that is pretty thoroughly explored and proven.
Income Sharing: Pooling the products of our labor, including money income, is how we form the membrane around our community that insulates us from the corrosive and isolating effects of capitalism. Although scary to get into, once established, income sharing makes everything else we are trying to do easier. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need!
Egalitarian: Let go of the idea of justice and deserving. We’re making it all up anyway. What matters is that we’re being taken care of and that so is everyone else. Liberty, equality, community. By basing our economy on equal access to resources rather than equal distribution of resources we celebrate and support differences and eliminate a lot of paperwork on our way to our post-scarcity utopia.
Democratic: No one is better equipped to make decisions about our lives than we are. If we’re trying to meet our needs then we should be in control of the resources and organizations that meet them. Electing your boss or master is better than not electing them, but we can do a lot more.
Ambitious: We’re taking on a big project not only in training ourselves to cooperate well and in maintaining this protective bubble, but in transforming all of society to more cooperative, democratic, egalitarian forms. We need a crack team to establish the first beachheads and we need to acknowledge the scale and daring of our aim.
Engaged: The problems we are identifying and confronting are social and often global in nature and therefore demand social and often global responses. To retreat into our fortress and build a good life for ourselves in isolation is to admit defeat and to abandon our fellow humans and the whole living world. It is a failure of compassion, and then what sort of Bodhisattva would we be?
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Tuesday is the Star family day. We all do a K shift (dish washing and post meal clean up) together after lunch. Hawina and i then do hammocks marketing. Then Sky and i do a transparency group. Then Sky and i (and Hawina will perhaps join) do have the new polyamory discussion dinner. And after dinner the Star family all sits down for a game (the expanded version of Settlers of Catan and Cosmic Encounter have been popular recently).
But before we play, we have created something of a tradition of going into town and getting various exotic and snack foods (avocados, salsa and chips, colby jack cheese and olives, ice cream). One of the regular cashiers comments on the silly hats that we were all wearing one day. This resulted in an escalation in the world of silly hats. The above picture is the most recent result.
At the very end of the night we all pill into Hawina’s giant bed and we do at least a couple of late night educational videos, in the form of West Wings.
I love Tuesdays.
Like a great rock concert, one of the things that makes Unicorns School wonderful is the surprise guest stars. At the most recent Unicorns (which i do on alternating Mondays) Bri and Dmitri from Dancing Rabbit came by.
Turns out, Mondays are pretty great also.
Rejoice was excited to show me her new friend. Pandora had just shown up in the middle of the Acorn fields. We called all our neighbors to find out if she was there. No one knew anything about her. For now at least she is living in the seed palace. Rejoice is very pleased about this.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
This is a new event the Point A project is organizing in Brooklyn. If you are in the city and interested in community, please consider coming by. If you have material to present, please email me and we will see if we can get you into the program. If you have a residential community project in the greater NYC area, consider coming and presenting about it during the “Meet the Communities” section of this event. If you do Facebook, please RSVP here.
Community Quest: Finding and Building Collective Living Situations in NYC -
Saturday March 15th noon to 6:30 PM at the Brooklyn Urban dZong (the BUZ) located at 778 Bergen St. 2FL, Brooklyn, New York 11238 [A few blocks from Clinton-Washington Ave A or C lines and ten minute walk from the Grand Army Plaza 2, 3, and 4 lines]
Communities begin as conversations. Rich chats about dreams and pragmatic discussions on logistics and finances. These are visionary talks about where we want to get to and concrete discussions of what the first steps to take are. Most communities don’t get beyond the start up conversation stage.
It takes all kinds of conversations.
This one day event is designed to help people who are seeking to join or start residential intentional communities find like-minded others and discover new or established communities in the NYC area. Come present your forming or existing community to people who might join you or otherwise be allies. Here is the forming agenda for the event.
Noon to 1 PM Panel discussion on Success (and Failure) of Communities in the NYC area
1 PM to 2:30 PM Meet the Communities – presentation of existing and forming communities in the NYC metro area and the “market place” of communities
2:45 to 4 PM first workshop block
Renovation without Gentrification
4:15 PM to 5:30 PM
Community legal structures: Coops, cohousing and land trusts
5:45 to 6:30 PM next steps and exit networking
A $5 donation is requested, but no one is turned away due to a lack of funds.
Rooftop Garden in Shanghi
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]